May will warn ‘noth­ing is agreed’ ahead of trade talks

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Christo­pher Hope chief Po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent

THERESA MAY will in­sist to­day that “noth­ing is agreed un­til ev­ery­thing is agreed” on the terms of Brexit af­ter the Ir­ish govern­ment claimed that last week’s pre­lim­i­nary deal was bind­ing.

The Prime Min­is­ter will say in the House of Com­mons that although she is op­ti­mistic a deal can be reached, last week’s agree­ment is con­tin­gent on such an out­come.

Mrs May will also face her first meet­ing with Cab­i­net min­is­ters to­day as po­ten­tially ac­ri­mo­nious dis­cus­sions be­gin about Bri­tain’s long-term re­la­tion­ship with the EU. She is ex­pected to say: “This is not about a hard or a soft Brexit… there is, I be­lieve, a new sense of op­ti­mism now in the talks and I fully hope and ex­pect that we will con­firm the ar­range­ments I have set out to­day in the Euro­pean Coun­cil later this week.”

How­ever, the Ir­ish dis­pute may now over­shadow dis­cus­sions be­tween EU lead­ers later this week. It was sparked when David Davis, the Ex­it­ing the Euro­pean Union sec­re­tary, in­sisted the deal guar­an­tee­ing no hard bor­der was not “legally en­force­able”.

The Ir­ish govern­ment in­sisted that the agree­ment was “bind­ing” and it would hold the UK “to ac­count” on it.

Brexit-sup­port­ing MPS are wor­ried that the UK has al­ready com­mit­ted to “full align­ment” with the EU on reg­u­la­tions and stan­dards that im­pacted on North­ern Ire­land.

Mr Davis told BBC One’s The An­drew Marr Show: “This was a state­ment of in­tent more than any­thing else. Much more a state­ment of in­tent than it was a legally en­force­able thing.”

Last night Simon Coveney, the Ir­ish deputy prime min­is­ter said that the UK had given a “clear and pos­i­tive state­ment” that Fri­day’s deal would be “up­held in all cir­cum­stances, ir­re­spec­tive of the na­ture of any fu­ture agree­ment be­tween the Euro­pean Union and the United King­dom”.

Leo Varad­kar, the Ir­ish Taoiseach, hailed the deal meant to pre­vent the re­turn of a hard bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic as “po­lit­i­cally bul­let-proof ” and “cast iron”.

DAVID DAVIS said Bri­tain will strike a “Canada plus plus plus” Brexit deal as Labour sig­nalled it wants to keep the UK tied to the sin­gle mar­ket for­ever.

The Brexit Sec­re­tary said he be­lieved a sub­stan­tive deal could be struck with Brus­sels within a year, while Sir Keir Starmer, his op­po­site num­ber, set out a blue­print which could re­sult in the UK con­tin­u­ing to pay into the Euro­pean Union’s bud­get af­ter with­drawal.

Sir Keir also re­fused to rule out call­ing another EU ref­er­en­dum which could re­verse the 2016 re­sult.

The emer­gence of the par­ties’ op­pos­ing Brexit vi­sions came ahead of a state­ment from Theresa May in the House of Com­mons this af­ter­noon when she is ex­pected to stress that there is now a “new sense of op­ti­mism” in talks with the EU.

Mr Davis’s back­ing for a Canada-style trade deal ap­peared to place him on a col­li­sion course with Re­main-sup­port­ing col­leagues, and comes just over a week before the Cab­i­net is due to hold a crunch dis­cus­sion over what it wants the “end state” of Brexit talks to be.

Mr Davis said he wanted to see an “over­ar­ch­ing trade deal” based on the Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic and Trade Agree­ment (Ceta) which grants Canada in­creased ac­cess to the Euro­pean sin­gle mar­ket and elim­i­nates the vast ma­jor­ity of tar­iffs on goods traded with the EU.

He sug­gested it could be used as a start­ing point for a wider-rang­ing EU/ UK deal which he de­scribed as “Canada plus plus plus”. He said: “We will prob­a­bly start with the best of Canada, the best of Ja­pan and the best of South Korea and then add to that the bits that are miss­ing – which are the ser­vices.”

The Brexit Sec­re­tary claimed the odds of a no deal Brexit had “dropped dra­mat­i­cally”, and re­buked Mr Ham­mond over the Chan­cel­lor’s re­cent sug­ges­tion the UK would pay its multi-bil­lion pound Brexit bill even if a trade deal is not agreed. Mr Davis in­sisted pay­ing the bill would be “con­di­tional on a trade out­come”.

Mean­while, Sir Keir set out a Labour vi­sion for Brexit which would see the UK re­main closely aligned to the sin­gle mar­ket and con­tinue to pay into the EU’S bud­get. It would also in­clude “easy move­ment” for EU cit­i­zens while busi­nesses would have to com­ply with Brus­sels’ rules de­spite Bri­tain no longer hav­ing a say when they are writ­ten.

He said he wanted the UK to strike a Nor­way-style deal with the EU. The Scan­di­na­vian coun­try is a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area which means it has full ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket but must ac­cept free­dom of move­ment and EU rules.

Nor­way also con­trib­utes to the EU’S bud­get, and re­search un­der­taken by the House of Com­mons Li­brary in 2013 showed that in 2011 it paid in £106 per per­son while the UK’S net con­tri­bu­tion was £128 per capita.

Sir Keir sug­gested the UK could fol­low the same path. “There may have to be pay­ments – that would have to be ne­go­ti­ated,” he said. On im­mi­gra­tion, Sir Keir said “the end of free move­ment doesn’t mean no move­ment”, and when asked if he was ad­vo­cat­ing “easy move­ment” for EU and UK cit­i­zens, he said: “Yes of course.”

Labour’s plan would also re­sult in the UK hav­ing to ad­here to EU reg­u­la­tions to main­tain a “level play­ing field”.

Mr Davis seized on Sir Keir’s com­ments and said: “A Labour Brexit would be­tray vot­ers and leave this coun­try in the worst pos­si­ble po­si­tion.”

Sir Keir also re­fused to rule out call­ing a sec­ond EU ref­er­en­dum. “Things are mov­ing so fast it is hard to know what is go­ing to come next but we are not call­ing for it,” he said

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